When it comes to naming venues, more than one apostrophe over the door can be a bad sign.
Smokin’ Jack’s is the latest dining place to put that aphorism to the test, as the latest incarnation of what was once The Star in Wroxall. Still very much a ‘local’, complete with dartboard and pool table, the place has been rebranded as a Jack Daniel’s theme pub. Along with a redecoration in Tennessee Whiskey style, the menu has been reimagined with what must be described as some remarkable-looking dishes.
We took a table in the small beer garden and enjoyed the sunshine, placing our orders for food. It was an hour later when the meal arrived, by which time the sun had faded so we moved inside. The waiting staff – lacking nothing in enthusiasm and friendliness – neatly accommodated us on an inside table at the bar. The little pub was busy with families enjoying some multigenerational dining, and the atmosphere was lively.
For starters, we were amazed to see on the menu Southern Fried Dill Pickles. After all these years, the legendary frickles from Stripped, Ventnor, have a rival. Obviously we ordered this as a shared starter, and soon concluded Stripped had nothing to worry about. These pickles were slender slices in a nondescript doughy batter. Fresh, hot and not unpleasant, they didn’t really stand out. But, unconcerned, we anticipated that the main courses were something to see – as indeed they were.
We had a young friend along with us so we made an unusual foray onto the extensive children’s menu. His dinner was a cheese slider. This comes in a choice of blue, red or green. Yes, you must choose. Bread-colour is not an option. Blue was the choice here, and two cute little burgers with cheese came out. As promised, they were very blue. The nipper powered through them with pleasure, pausing only to point out that actually, as a Liverpool and Saints fan, he would have preferred red.
But what about the grown-ups’ food? Mindful of Pride Month, we had to try the Unicorn Burger. This was a spectacular burger with two sirloin maple steak patties, bacon, and cheese; served in a rainbow bagel with maple syrup. The menu, ominously, said in bold type MAPLE SYRUP CAN’T BE REMOVED. So we didn’t ask to remove it. The multi-coloured bagel was extraordinary, and if it was maybe a little chewy the impressive visual effect couldn’t be denied. This memorable burger pile came with fries and a pot of standard ketchup. No mayo was offered, perhaps to enhance the illusion of being in Tennessee. A substantial burger meal that was certainly intended to be photographed for social media – a temptation we did not resist.
Alongside we had a Mac and Cheese Stack. This was another pair of burger patties, topped with macaroni cheese, bacon and more cheese. A visually entertaining presentation, with the chips served in a cute little Jack Daniel’s-themed chip tin. This was a feast that satiated, and delivered what it promised. Especially if you like cheese.
Southern fried pickles £5.50
Kids cheese sliders £5.60
Unicorn burger £17.00
Mac & cheese stack £17.00
Cheese cake £7.50
The adults at the table eschewed dessert, being well-stuffed with burgers. But what decent child would decline the offer of a pudding in a pub? Not this one, and because only one item was left available he ended up with a slice of cheesecake and scoops of ice cream.
After dinner, we had a game of pool and sipped our drinks. The murmur of chatter from regulars at the bar was a pleasant reminder that this still is the village local, and a valuable community amenity. The new incumbents have put much work into the venue, with Jack Daniel’s logos and the flag of Tennessee almost everywhere you look. The menu, too, has been given some thought. It is a unique offering on the Island and likely to remain so. If anything, it’s more like a kids menu for grown-ups. This is not a place to come and eat if you want fine dining or a locally-sourced foraged meal. The food at Smokin’ Jack’s is unapologetically frivolous, stuffed with artificial colourings, and given ridiculous names. The cheerful, slightly chaotic, family-oriented service helps too. This is an authentic pub where visitors will feel welcome and comfortable, and we did too.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Amazing, unique food
- Comprehensive Jack Daniel's theme
- Proper local pub
- Food colouring in almost everything